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ASK THE GARDENERS. Questions & Answers

Q Last summer while on a trip, we noticed what we thought were daylilies growing as a groundcover on a slope. They were lemon yellow and full of blooms, but they were only about a foot tall. A profusion of blooms almost obscured the foliage, but from what we could see from outside the fence surrounding the property, it resembled tall, grass-like daylily leaves. Is it possible there are dwarf daylilies that can be used for groundcover? M.F.

Salem, Ore.

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Daylilies are fast becoming America's favorite perennial. They are easy to grow and now come in heights ranging from 12 inches to five feet, with blooms in a multitude of colors, shapes, and sizes. There are even mini-blooms and double ones. Their botanical name, Hemerocallis, is from the Greek, meaning ``beautiful for a day.'' One or more blooms will open in the morning and wilt at night. This is not a problem because there is almost always a bud ready to replace it, right up until their blooming season is over. By choosing varieties carefully, daylily lovers can have almost continuous bloom from spring until fall. Some varieties bloom twice. For lots of good information about daylilies, join the American Hemerocallis Society, c/o Elly Lanius, 1454 Rebel Drive, Jackson, MS 39211.

Q Last summer my bush beans did not give a good yield. They were fine, husky plants but with not many beans. I worked cow manure into the soil before planting seeds according to directions on the packet. What should I have done to get a better crop?


Laguna Hills, Calif.

On some occasions, hot drying winds will cause blooms to drop either before or shortly after they are pollinated. This happens when there is not enough moisture in the soil to sustain both plants and blooms. It is more likely, however, that your beans did not have a balanced feeding. Cow manure is great to add organic matter to the soil but it does not have adequate fertilizer value. What it does have is nitrogen enough to make lush, green plants. It has hardly any phosphorus, the element that stimulates blooming and seed formation, as well as aiding root growth. When manure is used, extra phosphorus and potassium should be added. For example, if you used about 10 pounds of manure per 100 square feet of garden, you should add about three pounds of 5-10-10 (N,P,K - nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus) fertilizer to make up for the deficiency.

Reader comment: Your column of Feb. 20 mentions difficulty in rooting impatiens in water. I get almost 100 percent success simply by reducing water loss during pre-rooting period. I use juice glasses filled with water, then covered with wax paper in which I have punched two holes. I then take the cutting below a leaf and strip off all but top leaves. Insert the cuttings in the glass, two per glass, then slip a polyethylene bag over each glass with cuttings. Roots begin to form in about a week, but I leave the bag on for another week. If cuttings begin to wilt, I slip the bag over them again for an additional week. I pot them in soil before roots get so large that they mat together. If cuttings begin to wilt in the pots, I slip the bags over them again for a few days.


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St. Albans, W. Va.

Thank you for the fine tip! It proves the cuttings need humidity and you have shown home gardeners how to protect them from the dry air in today's homes. We're sure many folks would like to take cuttings and use them for outdoor planting, also. We welcome growing tips from readers.

Reader comment: My husband, who does most of the gardening, agrees that there definitely is something about pine needles that repels slugs. He never finds any where the needles are.


Graham, Texas

Reader comment: Replying to your reader's letter about the repellent value of oak leaves and pine needles against slugs, here is my experience. I compost oak leaves and some pine needles (which I can't sort out) with household garbage and sheep manure from our 10 sheep. This all makes wonderful soil for our vegetable garden. We have no snails or slugs and have not had them for 11 years.


Placerville, Calif.

We appreciate your observations and those from other readers with similar comments. This further suggests that it is not acid content but somethng else that repels slugs (Jan. 27 letter from Mr. and Mrs. W.A.C., Kilgore, Texas). We still think it has something to do with the terpenoids in the pine needles. Perhaps there is a repellent in oak leaves, also.

We hope others will help with our research for a good, safe slug-snail repellent. The scientific community is finally acknowledging the devastating effects caused to Earth's environment, and its inhabitants, by the use of highly toxic chemical pesticides. We are encouraged that many scientists are now pursuing nontoxic remedies including predators, safe compounds, mechanical traps, and resistant plants. Home gardeners can be a valuable asset in this search.

Q For several years I have been trying to locate a rose geranium plant. I have made many inquiries but most folks have never heard of this variety, and many have never heard of scented geraniums. Years ago I had a beautiful one and I am hoping you can tell me of a source. I have saved your recipe for rose geranium punch in anticipation of your locating it.


Erie, Pa.

We have many requests for sources for scented geraniums. Two good ones we know of are: Cook's Geranium Nursery, 712 N. Grand, Lyons, KS 67554, and Logec's Greenhouses, 55 North St., Danielson, CT 06239. We would welcome the names of other retail suppliers of scented, zonal, and other types of geraniums.

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